With finals week comes the heightened state of stress high school students are all too familiar with. It’s a week that can be characterized by between-the-bell study sessions, all-nighters spent rummaging through notes and moments of pure insanity when all hell seems to break loose. However, with the freshmen students experiencing the roller coaster of finals week for the first time at RBHS, many found themselves surprised at the rigor and difficulty of it all.
Though she had final exams during her eighth grade year at Ann Hawkins Gentry Middle School, freshmen Gracye Allen didn’t expect the level of demand her finals required.
“It’s harder than I expected. This is the first time I’ve had actual finals,” Allen said. “In eighth grade it’s just trying to do good on another test, but these grades are the ones that are [actually] going to affect me.”
While some students are starting feel the stress of finals at a high school level, freshmen Sejoon Jun made a conscious decision to make his grades work in his favor if he were to get a less than desireable final exam score.
“I built myself a cushion for most classes, so if I flunked the final I’d still live,” Jun said. ”For example, I got a 68 percent on my Spanish final but I still have [an A] in the class because before the final, I had a good 105 percent in the class. I would say the Spanish final so far has been the most challenging.”
The stress that final exams ensue is not isolated to a select few. According to an article from the Greater Good Science Center of the University of Berkeley, a study of students from high-achieving high schools in California reported that 70 percent of students felt stressed because of their school work and 56 percent constantly worried about grades, tests and college acceptance.
[quote cite=”Jordan Alexander, guidance counselor “]When stress gets too high, we know that it affects your ability to learn information. Sometimes the best thing to do if you find yourself stressed out and you still have studying to do is to take a break and de-stress and get your mind away from it. [/quote]
Guidance counselor Jordan Alexander said although he has not seen the numbers of students who come in for stress-related problems increase around finals week, he recognizes student apprehension.
“Students are showing up wondering about second semester class changes, but I do feel the stress, I notice that there are more students experiencing stress even if they are not necessarily talking about it,” Alexander said. “It is a higher stress time of the year. I don’t know if the freshmen are any more stressed. They seem to either be stressed or not really understanding how important finals are. Given that this is the first time they’ve experienced finals, they might not be aware of how much their final exams could impact their semester grade.”
He said throughout the year, academic-related stress, along with career planning and personal problems are the most discussed topics in guidance.
For Allen, the burden of finals is not the only thing that makes freshmen year difficult. She said getting used to a new school environment and the organization of exams was challenging at first.
“As a freshmen, everything is bigger. The school, the people, the work. I have to work harder because the teachers expect more from me than [my teachers] in eighth grade,” Allen said. “It’s also hard because [before,] teachers talked to each other and tried to make sure they weren’t all giving us big tests on the same day.”
Even though Alexander said stress is a natural response when it comes to things like finals, he also believes it needs stress relieving activities to counteract it.
“It’s OK to experience higher levels of stress, but it is also important to try to be intentional about managing that stress. [It’s] learning how to take care of yourself [and] trying to get enough sleep, make sure you’re eating healthy [and] engaging in some activities that are stress-relieving,” Alexander said. “When stress gets too high, we know that it affects your ability to learn information. Sometimes the best thing to do if you find yourself stressed out and you still have studying to do is to take a break and de-stress and get your mind away from it.”
From his time helping students manage stress among other mental health issues for 13 years, he believes a student’s personal experience is the best teacher.
“[For] students who are stressed out, we encourage them to look at what they might want to do differently the next time they get in that situation, which will be at the end of second semester. Part of it is just developmental and learning how to manage those types of things,” Alexander said. “Sometimes it’s as easy as being better prepared for finals week so that you don’t have to cram and try to learn a huge amount of information in a short time. We know that students can benefit from their own experience and we’re certainly willing to help guide them through that if they wish.”
What has your experience with finals week been like this semester?